But then I heard the pounding of waves against the sand. I inhaled thick air scented with salt and saw the sky spread like a smile over the Pacific Ocean, and I wrote this letter instead.
You are now old enough and smart enough to understand that life can be scary. That's why you were warning us on the boat. People who recall childhood as a purely carefree, magical time aren't remembering its very real terrors — the nightmares, the casual and not-so-casual bullying, the complete dependence on people older and bigger than you, the lack of control over your own emotions.
As you grow older, you'll discover more things to fear. Some of those fears will grow out of internal anxiety rather than any real threat to you or the people you love. But some of those fears will be legitimate.
That's why I want you to remember this: No matter what happens, the world is a profoundly beautiful place. Carry this knowledge with you always and learn to draw upon it when you feel afraid. Keep your senses engaged and rediscover the natural world around you every day.
See the colors and shapes of plants. In particular, notice the varying shades of green — silver and moss and olive and Kelly.
Step out onto your porch at night and track the phases of the moon.
Hear the conversations of birds and watch the patterns of flight they weave.
Feel cool grass beneath your bare feet and warm sun in your hair.
Run your hand over a lavender plant on a morning walk and carry the scent home with you.
Learn to smell a rainstorm before the rain even falls.
And while you're noticing the natural world, watch the people who inhabit it, especially when they perform small thoughtful acts for one another — holding the door open for a stranger, taking a meal to someone who's ill, distracting a fussy baby to give the mother a break, giving directions to someone who's lost, laughing at a kid's knock-knock joke even if it isn't funny, holding someone's hand, paying for the guy behind you in the line at McDonald's, mowing a neighbor's lawn week after week (thanks, Joe).